Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio is the archive for the premiere website that covered the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features. We are now closed for new activity.
Are you ready for some football?! Well, we can’t help you there, but if you’re ready for some great pop music fueled by great melodies and imagination, performed with gusto by one of the premier practitioners on today’s pop scene, yeah, we can help you with that.
Virginia’s own Scott Brookman, whose latest album is the creatively titled, aery Smellicopter, joins Alan Haber on tonight’s spirited edition of Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. Settle in at 8 pm ET for 90 minutes of cool chat about some of Scott’s favorite songs sung by female singers and, oh yeah, Smellicopter. You’ll hear two songs from the album–“Inspected by Curly” (think of those itty-bitty, tiny slips of paper you find in new shirt and pants pockets) and “Weirdos” (think–aw, never mind…everybody knows one or two!).
Not only will you hear two songs from Smellicopter, you’ll also hear a live, keyboard-driven take on “Very Anne,” also from the album, and a song that was cut and has never been heard…until now, and it’s performed live. Yes, these two performances are a collective Pure Pop Radio exclusive!
It’s all about female singers, Carole King chords, the influence of jazz on Scott’s songwriting and much, much more, tonight on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation. Set your Internet radio devices for 8 pm ET tonight. We love Scott around here, and we know you will too.
It’s no secret that of all of the elements that go into an interview on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, my favorite is the human one. As much as I live for spreading the word on great music, I’m even more dedicated to telling the stories behind the songs. What is the songwriter’s history? How did he grow up? How did life treat him along the way? How does all of this help shape his music?
We’ve got a wonderful human story for you beginning next Tuesday, February 4. Lee Jones, from the great Australian band The Solicitors, joins me for the deeply felt story of how he got from the many roadblocks that life has delivered to him to his position as songwriter and singer in a band that is destined, I believe, for the top of the pops. I think you will be riveted as Lee unravels quite a heartfelt tale that negotiates a bumpy road, but winds up in a good place, delivering to the world a happy, talented man with a happy life who can strike up the band and get any place rocking and popping in no time.
Don’t miss this one. Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation with Lee Jones from The Solicitors airs on Pure Pop Radio next Tuesday and Wednesday, February 4 and 5, at 8 pm ET, and on Friday, February 7 at 6 pm ET. See you on the radio for a most commanding tale.
It was much like the old days, when I would make my rounds in Greenwich Village, going from record shop to record shop, flipping through the stacks and bins for those hard-to-find gems that had somehow eluded my grasp along the way. It was much like those hours on end, when conversation with a record shop’s owner could extend from the end of daylight into the beginning of night. It was the aroma that made life so much sweeter–the particular smell of vinyl and cardboard sleeves slid into plastic sleeves, slid into plastic bags just before you shook hands with the owner and bid him a fond adieu. “Until next time!”
It was a short, happy trip to just outside Baltimore in a quaint little town called Catonsville in Maryland, up 495 to 95 and on to 166–almost a straight shot along a couple of I’s and an MD. This part of Catonsville seemed like a sleepy, small college town. All sorts of handy shops lined the sides of the narrow street. And there, amidst the quiet of the middle-afternoon, cold and crisp air alight, was Trax on Wax, a shop stocked full of vinyl that spanned the ages. Old, rare, new; rock, pop, jazz and belly dancing; the popular, the left-of-center and the rites of summer, fall, winter and spring. A lost colony, if you will–something akin to a kind of Brigadoon, perhaps. A place out of time and, at the same time, in synch with the world. Or at least the part of it that swings, rocks and rolls.
I was already familiar with Trax, having conversed online with the owner Gary Gebler and enjoyed his posts of record-related pictures on Facebook for some time, so a trip to the store was one that seemed to always be in the cards. A fan of Pure Pop Radio, Gary had the station playing in the store as my wife and I approached it, so I knew we would be in good company. The door opened and it all seemed so much like the black and white of Kansas changing to the color of Oz–thousands of vinyl record albums all of a sudden present and lining the walls and making themselves known in the center area and behind the counter–all immaculately arranged and displayed. This was the land of milk and honey.
“Alan Haber?” Gary and I shook hands and my wife and I said hello. We talked awhile about the store, about music, about those things that one chats about when those sounds are all around them. I noticed a poster aside the counter that was promoting the music of Jacob Panic, whose songs play in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. “I don’t know if you know,” Gary offered, “but that’s my son.” It becomes a smaller and smaller world every day, right? Jacob was out for awhile, but would be back soon. I couldn’t believe my luck. Jacob had quickly become a favorite of mine–a multi-instrumentalist who is part power pop, part bluegrass, and part other stuff. He was the original banjo player in Graham Elvis’s Sgt. Popgrass collective. Truly a most talented individual.
We browsed and we bought–an self-titled album by a group called Glass Moon that I didn’t own–and met Jacob who, like his dad, was quite the warm and friendly sort. It was a great pleasure shaking Jacob’s hand and chatting with him. And then we took it all in some more. Trax was the kind of place that any music fan would be happy to get lost in or order from (the shop does mail order, too). We took a few snapshots (lensed by award-winning, Daily Planet photographer Janet Haber) and we talked some more. I wanted the visit to continue, but darkness was falling outside and it was time to go, time to become one with the straight shot back to Virginia.
I understand what people mean when they shout “Vinyl is back!” Truth is, it never left. It’s always been there and continues to live and breathe inside shops like Trax–shops that are run by people who know and love the music and live for those platters that matter. Trax is not a job for Gary Gebler–it’s a calling. It’s the air that he and his customers breathe when they’re feeling the urge to spin a slab of black vinyl–when they can practically feel the head of the tone arm between their fingers; when they can feel the needle resting comfortably in the grooves of the music that gives them that certain feeling that can be felt more than it can be verbally explained.
It was indeed much like the old days for my wife and I, but these are the new days–the days on offer today–the days that we can count on to carry us on to tomorrow, when the urge to soak up those sounds that move us grabs hold of us and make us seem brand new. The romance of vinyl–the art of feeling the vibes that we are hunting for–is still with us. The art of putting the needle down into the grooves and laying back with the cover and liner notes and lyrics and posters and stickers and such is still with us.
If Pictures Of found Andy Klingensmith in fine, mid-period Simon and Garfunkel mettle, then the new EP Bright Again finds the young singer-songwriter wiping his sonic canvas clean and adding a few, new, sparkling layers on top of his folk-pop leanings.
Klingensmith’s overall approach, in fact, is decidedly different and fresh this time around, only five months after the release of his freshman offering. Whereas Pictures Of, as accomplished a work of musical art as was released last year, featured only bright and vibrant acoustic guitars underpinning the gorgeous vocal stacks of three-dimensional harmonies and astute, majestic lyrics, Bright Again adds bass, keyboards, drums (deftly performed by Riley Smith), percussion and woodwinds (played sensitively by Jay Gummert) to the mix, and paints a decidedly pop picture while still retaining the already-established folk-pop foundation.
Recording at home again, Klingensmith, whether on purpose or not, channels Curt Boettcher, the vocal sound of the Roches, and the Free Design and sets out to twist and turn preconceived notions about his approach, even as he posits that his basic notions haven’t really changed. The title song, for example, rolls along on the wings of gorgeous harmonies and a lovely woodwind melody line delivered pleasingly over an acoustic guitar strum. The artist begins singing about a communicative bond with a partner. Cheery chords, drums and percussion propel the upbeat tune along as the words paint a yin-yang picture that suggests all might not be well now but may be in the future. “Stop me if you have heard this one before,” the narrator suggests. “Man walks into the world, stays a while/What’s the use of a mind? What’s it good for?/When everything is erased with her smile.”
Lofty questions such as these kick off this sophomore release. The questions do not stop after “Bright Again” plays out. In the breezy, second song, “No Control,” Klingensmith plays with varied rhythm structures as he spins a tale that touches on duality (“Something in the words we choose makes the things we say come in twos/Which do you wish that I prefer?”) and one’s path in life (“There’s fate but that’s just a wait/A key with no gate/A line much too straight/And though the things that we know are not fading slow/There’s one place to go.” Once again, lovely, inventive harmony stacks both surprise and delight.
Feelings that manifest as delicate notions are at the heart of “Oh Miss No Name.” Suggesting that such realizations may be fleeting, Klingensmith sings “I’ll write a few words with water from the fountain/But, soon as it’s done, it dries.” Crestfallen or not, he addresses his thoughts in the final verse: “Oh miss no name, perpetual love/Feels just like we are hand in glove/I’m just musing, remove the “m”/Now just using my mind ’til then.”
And so it goes with lyrics that are wise and ring true for all manner of listener, whether Klingensmith is writing about the open air in “The Parade” (“And I would ask the sky to take a seat if it wasn’t still under my feet”), ruminating on the mysteries of life in “The Penultimate Color” (“And so how long will nature still pen its overture/Where will the notes fall in the dark without us knowing?”), or musing about anticipation in “Peels and Feels” (“I forget just what I was, waiting for/A thousand days, out the door”). And so it goes, as well, with every note rightly expended within the confines of these richly wrought songs, cleverly realized creations that stand with the best of them.
Released on January 14, 2014, Bright Again would signal the arrival of a major artist had the full-length Pictures Of not already done that in 2013. Another full album, recorded out of the safety of home, is next on Klingensmith’s plate. It cannot help but reveal additional, emotional layers befitting a musician whose vision sees more detail with each new composition, whose every new step takes him into the great unknown with an eye toward completing his next musical chapter. For the sky is the limit, and the limit is endless and just around the corner. Andy Klingensmith, once again and forevermore, has arrived.
This is the start of something big. Or at least our first post. Since this is a short “hello” sort of missive, let us simply leave you with directions to Pure Pop Radio, our award-winning (well, we can only hope) Internet radio station playing the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60’s to today. See you again soon.